Everything You Need to Know About Eyebrow Extensions

Danika Wukich has no eyebrows—the combined result of genetics and the unfortunate side effects from overplucking and brow tattooing. But a few years ago, she discovered brow extensions, which brought her to Envious Lashes, a New York City-based beauty salon that specialises in lash and brow extensions. Now a regular, she goes in weekly, entrusting the specialists to reimagine her brows completely from scratch.

“We do different versions of my brows every week, playing with the shape and the way it expresses itself,” she says. “Brows really inform the face, so I can change my look every week. We’ve done ones that are really thick and dramatic. I like the flexibility.”

But Wukich is the exception, says Clementina Richardson, founder of Envious Lashes, who believes that brows extensions should be saved for special occasions because they’re time intensive, expensive, and they don’t last very long.

So, what are brow extensions?

Much like lash extensions, brow extensions revolve around the concept of attaching fibres with a clear medical-grade adhesive to achieve a lengthening effect. But that’s where the similarities end. “With lash extensions, you need natural eyelashes to attach the extension to,” Richardson says. “But with eyebrow extensions, the actual fibres are attached directly to the skin or the eyebrow hair itself.”

The fibres are different, too. With lashes, you have your choice of mink, silk, or cashmere—all of which are full and thick in appearance to mimic a mascara-coated lash. But brow extensions are much, much finer. “I like to use the finest strand possible because it’s the one that appears the most natural-looking—if the hair is too thick, it’s going to look unnatural, like hair plugs,” Richardson continues. “Some other places avoid having fine strands because it requires more work.”

Unlike microblading, brow extensions offer texture.

Microblading is a semi-permanent tattoo that delivers the appearance of a brow using hair-like strokes, but there’s no dimension to it. “Most people are unaware of eyebrow extensions, but I do think it’s starting to pick up because of the popularity of microblading,” Richardson says. “Since there’s no texture or depth with microblading, more people are looking to extensions to add definition, volume, or a more defined arch. It’s also great for people who want something different, but don’t want to commit to it.”

Brow extensions have less risk than microblading.

And because brow extensions are applied to the surface of the skin using glue (as opposed to a needle that pierces the epidermis), there’s less risk in possible infections or dissatisfaction with the finished result. “If you don’t like how the microblading turned out, there’s no way to really fix it, while eyebrow extensions gradually fall out over time,” she says. “It’s a much safer alternative.”

Dark brown is the most popular color.

Richardson says dark brown extensions are universally flattering and they complement the most skin tones. She does have black in her arsenal, but she finds it to be too harsh.

Make sure to arrive with clean brows.

Remove all gels, powders, and pencils before your session. Richardson recommends a fresh base for the best hold. A consultation will first take place during which you and the specialist will agree on the shape—the length, the arch, and the areas to be filled. 

Brow extensions can take up to two hours to apply.

The entire process can run from 30 minutes to two hours. Each fibre is meticulously applied, strand by strand, with tweezers. Unlike lashes, where extensions are glued on in one direction, these strands follow the grow pattern of your brows and are placed in different angles to create the shape. The final result can potentially boast hundreds of fibres of varying lengths.

“There’s no room for error because it’s applied flat against the skin, so anything out of wack is going to be super obvious,” Richardson says. “I don’t allow some of my girls to do brow extensions even though they’re great at lashes because they don’t have the eye for it. When you have someone come in with asymmetrical or no brows, you need to have the eye to know what’s needed on one side and on the other. It’s like working from a blank canvas, which is especially difficult when everyone’s brows are different. It takes precision and patience. It’s an art.”

The end result should look like a beautiful threading or wax job.

When done correctly, brow extensions should look like your natural brows, but better—the bottom should be sharp, clean, and aligned, and the overall shape should look neat. “If it’s done poorly, it can actually look fake, like a tattoo—that means they’ve used too many strands, it’s too thick, and it’s too dense,” Richardson explains. “But it’s an easy fix because it’s extensions. Apply the remover and it’s off.”

Be wary of lazy techniques.

Richardson says she’s seen places that tint the skin underneath first, which is the wrong way to do brow extensions. “When the skin is tinted, it gives a darker look, so they can get away with applying extensions every which way and adding much fewer strands of hair,” she warns.

It lasts up to two weeks, depending on how you care for them.

It’s crucial that the brows not touch water for the first 48 hours. Avoid touching them, sleeping on them, using oil-based products, and applying makeup over them. Only dab the area with water using a damp cloth. “Because it’s attached to the skin, the chances of them staying on for very long are very slim,” Richardson says. “If someone has an oily complexion or is constantly rubbing their face, it’s just going to fall off.”

The bigger the brow, the more expensive it will be.

The cost runs from $150 to $350. “A bigger, bolder brow will require more work, so it’s priced accordingly,” Richardson says. “But it’s beautiful when it’s done. It’s worth it.”

This article first appeared on ELLE.